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Hardware

Though a PC comes in many different form factors, a typical personal computer consists of a case or chassis in a tower shape (desktop) and the following parts:

Motherboard

The motherboard is the "body" of the computer. Components directly attached to the motherboard include:

  • The central processing unit (CPU) performs most of the calculations which enable a computer to function, and is sometimes referred to as the "brain" of the computer. It is usually cooled by a heat sink and fan.
  • The chipset mediates communication between the CPU and the other components of the system, including main memory.
  • RAM Stores all running processes (applications) and the current running OS. RAM Stands for Random Access Memory
  • The BIOS includes boot firmware and power management. The Basic Input Output System tasks are handled by operating system drivers.
  • Internal Buses connect the CPU to various internal components and to expansion cards for graphics and sound.
    • Current
      • The northbridge memory controller, for RAM and PCI Express
      • PCI Express, for graphics cards
      • PCI, for other expansion cards
      • SATA, for disk drives
    • Obsolete
      • ATA (superseded by SATA)
      • AGP (superseded by PCI Express)
      • VLB VESA Local Bus (superseded by AGP)
      • ISA (expansion card slot format obsolete in PCs, but still used in industrial computers)
  • External Bus Controllers support ports for external peripherals. These ports may be controlled directly by the Southbridge I/O controller or based on expansion cards attached to the motherboard through the PCI bus.
    • USB
    • FireWire
    • eSATA

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